NEW YORK – K-Pop sensation BTS brought their star power to United Nations on September 24, telling the world’s youth to listen to their inner voice and resist pressure to conform.
“No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin colour, your gender identity, just speak yourself,” group leader Kim Nam-jun aka Rap Monster (RM) told a packed hall at the launch of a UNICEF youth campaign.
Dubbed ‘Generation Unlimited’, the campaign to promote education, training and employment kicked off during the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.
Wearing business suits and ties, the septet joined UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and Rwandan President Paul Kagame for the event — that was oddly devoid of screaming fans.
Kim spoke of growing up in Ilsan, South Korea, imagining he was a superhero and being “just a normal little boy” until self-doubt settled in at the age of nine or ten.
“I think that’s when I began to worry about what other people thought of me and started seeing myself though their eyes,” he said. “I tried to jam myself into the moulds that other people made.”
The lead singer of the world’s most popular boy band said there were times when he wanted to quit music but he overcame his insecurities by listening to the “small voice that said, wake up man, and listen to yourself”.
“I have many faults and I have many more fears but I am going to embrace myself as hard as I can and I am starting to love myself,” he said.
Among South Korea’s best known and most lucrative musical exports, BTS made music history this year by becoming the first K-Pop group to top the Billboard 200 music charts.
“BTS has become artistes performing in huge stadiums and selling millions of records right now, but I am still an ordinary 24-year-old guy,” said Kim. “We have learned to love ourselves, so now I urge you to ‘speak yourself’.”
BTS is bringing its Love Yourself tour to New York for a series of concerts including its first-ever US stadium performance. Formed in 2013, it is one of the most popular Korean bands in the world, with more than 13.3 million followers on Instagram.
The group previously worked with the UN on awareness and fundraising campaigns.
In 2017, BTS joined with the Korean Committee for UNICEF to establish ‘Love Myself’, which works with the organisation’s global #ENDviolence to advocate against youth violence.
“Last November, BTS launched the ‘Love Myself’ campaign with UNICEF, building on our belief that ‘true love first begins with loving myself’,” Kim said.
“After releasing the ‘Love Yourself’ albums and launching the ‘Love Myself’ campaign,” Kim said, adding, “We started to hear remarkable stories from our fans all over the world, how our message helped them overcome their hardships in life and start loving themselves. These stories constantly remind us of our responsibility”.
“So, let’s all take one more step. We have learned to love ourselves, so now I urge you to ‘speak yourself’,” he added.